This year, for the first time, the men's netball Trans-Tasman Cup included an under-20 series and a New Zealand side packed with Rotorua stars took the win.
The team, who won their three-game series 2-1 against Australia in Adelaide last month, included five Rotorua players, Visesio Sakalia, Joshua Vercoe, Caleb Vercoe, Tanekohurangi Apaapa and Poutewha Te Kaawa, and were coached by Rotorua's Hemi McKinney.
They won the first game 47-44, but lost the second game 41-39 to set up a winner-takes-all third and final game. The New Zealand side were able to bounce back from defeat and won the third game 42-35.
They were the only New Zealand side to win their series - Australia won the Open Men's, Open mixed and under-23 Men's grades.
McKinney said, after a strong start in the first game, the New Zealand under-20s "let it slip" in game two.
"In the third game, we just focused on our own processes and structures, and ensured we supplied ball to our shooters. In the second game, I think they psyched themselves out with the hype of everything. We always knew Australia would come back two-fold after losing the first game," McKinney said.
"Throughout the series, I thought we worked well as a team. When you're playing sport, it's about the team, not the individuals, so we needed to make sure we looked after each other, drove onto the ball at all times and made sure we did the work."
He said having an under-20 grade included in the series helped improve the pathway to higher representative honours for men's netball players.
"There are a lot of opportunities now and people interested in representing their countries and their regions. Those are the pathways we have to create, so these guys can move into under-23s and then the pinnacle of men's netball is either open men's or open mixed.
"Their goal should be looking toward making those teams, the under-20s and under-23s are good development grades."
The under-20 New Zealand side have been training for the Trans-Tasman Cup series for the last year. After seeing the work they had put in, McKinney was proud to see them take the win.
"We had seven training camps, the first six in Rotorua and the seventh in Hamilton. I was absolutely humbled and blessed because we all know men's netball is self-funded. All the sacrifices they had to make, all the training, the blood, sweat and tears and their families helping to support them financially paid off.
"It draws some recognition and opens people's minds to actually support the sport that we're playing."
He hoped to see men's netball follow a similar path to women's rugby in the near future, with the ultimate goal being for it to become professional.
"We want to grow it, so it becomes a professional sport, rather than an associated member of Netball New Zealand."
The Rotorua Men's Mixed Netball Club is calling for those interested in playing to make contact ahead of the 2019 season. They are also seeking coaches, assistant coaches, managers, personal trainers and umpires. For more information or to register interest call McKinney on 021 121 0024 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Trans-Tasman Cup Men's Under-20 Results
Game 1: New Zealand 47-44 Australia
Game 2: Australia 41-39 New Zealand
Game 3: New Zealand 42-35 Australia
Rotorua players in the New Zealand Men's Under-20 netball team
Poutewha Te Kaawa
Coach: Hemi McKinney